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Governing changes in government: the water story of Mahabubnagar

Harikrishnan Ramesh Varma (Centre for Governance, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India)
Ram Kumar Kakani (Centre for Governance, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India)
James Sebastian Poovathingal (Human Resources Area, IFIM Business School, Bangalore, India)

Publication date: 18 August 2021

Issue publication date: 12 October 2021


Theoretical basis

Kotter’s framework of change management adapted to the situation of public policy implementation under the leadership of a civil service officer in the rural areas of a developing economy in South Asia.

Research methodology

This case has been written using the primary data collected from the protagonist through personal and computer-based interviews. Some of the documents associated with the event shared by the protagonist are also reproduced as case exhibits. Secondary data from government official websites were also used to enrich the case.

Case overview/synopsis

Mahbubnagar, an arid agricultural district in central India faced the threat of a water crisis owing to the unscientific water extraction by the resident farmers. The government appointed a task force to investigate the problem. The team executed the idea to harvest excess water from the fields through a cheap and efficient method. Though it showed spectacular results in the initial months, the farmers gave up the innovation soon. When the team met two years later, they were shocked by the unenthusiastic response of the farmers. This case pertains to the failure of policy innovations and change management in government.

Complexity academic level

This case is useful for undergraduate-level courses in public management, public policy and governance with modules in change management, innovation management, rural development and programme implementation. Training modules for novice public service professionals and programme management personnel in government organisations. Elective courses on public policy, government relations and public sector management for undergraduate students of business administration.



The authors would like to thank Mr G. Chandrasekhar Reddy, Indian Forest Service, for sharing the information required to write this case; and Ms Saanjuli Gupta, IPE Global for sharing her insights on behavioural barriers in policy implementation in rural India.Disclaimer. This case is intended to be used as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. The case was compiled from published sources.


Varma, H.R., Kakani, R.K. and Poovathingal, J.S. (2021), "Governing changes in government: the water story of Mahabubnagar", , Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 542-568.



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